Although it might well have been, as trumpeted by CEO Andy Miller, “the most exciting day in Polycom’s history” and “an entirely new company at Polycom” perhaps the most significant outcome of Monday’s raft of genuinely exciting announcements [details in our following story], was that the company’s share price did not move significantly. Yes, it kicked by about 75cents, but then settled back to under $10.00, below the $12.00 high (for the last 3 months) that it reached in the middle of September. This is hard to understand when the new offerings are potentially so game changing. Remember, this is a company that has enjoyed 58 consecutive quarters of positive cash flow and which gained 8% market share in H1/12, which Miller puts down to it “enabling interoperability” something that the new announcements ensure is set to continue apace.
The company’s new announcements underline its intention to grow the business not just directly with enterprise customers, but through system integrators, service providers and application developers and signals a move into the virtualisation environment.
Polycom says, with very little argument from anyone, that the major impediments to the growth of the video collaboration marketplace have been inconsistent user experiences, limited device and environment support and a total cost of ownership argument that is not compelling enough. The new announcements are set to answer that.
The drivers towards ubiquitous video are: ease of use. high availability (to anyone in any environment), universal access of B2B to B2C and easy integration into business processes. That B2C proposition is significant, we think.
Some pundits view the launch as potentially the largest product launch in the history of videoconferencing. In order to judge whether or not that is the case we think there are four critical questions that define the bottom line: what does it mean for end users; what does it mean for the channel; what impact is it going to have on videoconferencing generally; how does it position Polycom? Here how we see the various elements stacking up.
Polycom RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite
Polycom’s users now have the option to be inclusive of participants who don’t have access to a room-based conference system. This service is being delivered / hosted by service providers and directly by user enterprises. By enabling Polycom users to connect with users of any presence video app such as Facebook and Skype the company is now able to regain some lost ground. CloudAXIS Suite is a presence system that allows a (Polycom) user to initiate a video conference with users of multiple different video conferencing apps, by simply dragging them (vie the screen) into a call. These other users do not require to download any further application – accepting the invitation which appears in their presence app, Skype say, simply launches them into a browser based conference session. Thus, Polycom says, solving the problem of bringing video islands together seamlessly and securely.
Polycom RealPresence SVC Enhancements
The key differentiator between Polycom’s SVC and SVC-leader Vidyo is that Polycom’s can connect with non-SVC devices in native mode without needing a gateway or other interoperability service. Polycom scores some brownie points here though by offering its implementation of H.264 SVC licence-free to other developers. Whether anyone else picks it up remains to be seen, although Microsoft will be using it due to the longstanding relationship between the two companies. Will it tempt any start ups to enter the market? Perhaps, but they’ll have to run really fast to catch up with existing players. Will it tempt big hitters such as Cisco, Lifesize & Avaya (Radvision)? Probably not. In fact, it is more like a poke in the eye for them. But what it does do is plant Polycom’s flag firmly in the SVC sand. So it is definitely good for the company, its users and its channel.
Polycom UX – “the industry’s best video collaboration experience”
The Polycom User Interface was redesigned, substantially enhanced and simplified in this iteration. One eye-catcher is SmartPairing – the ability to seamlessly “swipe” a video call from iPad to conference room screen while simultaneously switching the iPad to conference controller. Most non-technical users want the simplest experience possible, over-complication has been the death of many a “good” technology. This has to be good for everyone, except perhaps Polycom’s competitors and it has to be good for users and good for business.
The announcements also covered Polycom’s next generation video endpoints including the executive desktop (the ultra slim VisualEdge) and software for PCs and mobile devices—and pretty slick they all look.
One has to conclude that Polycom has indeed got its second wind and is intent on ensuring its position at the head of the field. It isn’t going to be an easy race, the company’s competitors aren’t exactly letting them run away with all the prizes, but as far as we can see these announcements are indeed good for the company, its end users and its partners. And, once implementation starts (Q1/2013), it will prove to be good for the marketplace as a whole. We have to say, well done Polycom!